10th Oct2016

‘Sinister Squad’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Johnny Rey Diaz, Christina Licciardi, Lindsay Sawyer, Talia A Davis, Trae Ireland, Isaac Reyes, Fiona Rene, Joseph Michael Harris, Nick Principe, Aaron Moses, Randall Yarbrough | Written and Directed by Jeremy M. Inman

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To be fair, you know what you’re in for with any Asylum movie that is homaging a bigger-budget Hollywood flick… After all it’s become de rigueur for David Michael Latt and co. to produce what have been affectionately dubbed “mockbusters” for all the big Summer blockbusters: films such as Transmorphers, American Battleship, The Terminators, Almighty Thor, Battle of Los Angeles, and Avengers Grimm. But watching a mockbuster from The Asylum doesn’t neccesarily mean audiences are in for a terrible time, there are often sparks of genius within their films – be it some great casting or an inspired plot.

Case in point: the aforementioned Avengers Grimm, which used the Avengers film format to tell a superhero-like story set within the world of fairytales. That film was written and directed by Jeremy M. Inman, who returns to the same fairytale universe for Sinister Squad…Well I say same universe, there are connections with Inman’s first fairytale feature – in particular the magic mirror which was central to the plot of Avengers Grimm – but it would have been much more intriguing to actually see actors carry over their roles from that film too. But sadly that’s not to be – so no Casper Van Dien as Rumplestiltskin here folks, instead we get a scenery chewing Johnny Rey Diaz!

Once again focusing on Rumplestiltskin (who, it would seem, given his success as a character on a certain fairytale TV show, has become THE go-to villain for any fairytale flick), Sinister Squad sees the character – rather than being the films antagonist a la Inman ‘s previous flick – tasked with teaming up with other fairytale villains against another big bad. In this particular case it’s Alice who gathers together a team of “former” villains made up of fairytale characters such as Rumplestiltskin, Goldilocks, Bluebeard, The Pied Piper and the Big Bad Wolf (though the less said about the, frankly stupid, Mad Hatter character the better) to take on Death himself, played by Chromeskull‘s Nick Principe.

Sound familiar? Yes, to no one’s surprise, this mockbuster riffs on DC’s recent Summer superhero movie, which saw DC villains team-up for the “greater good” and sprinkles it with some fairy[tale] dust. However this Asylum movie takes  a LOT more inspiration from the Warner Bros blockbuster than is first thought – in that Sinister Squad is  just as confusing as its Hollywood counterpart. Though I doubt we’ll get an extended cut of this film, complete with all the plot threads that would see the movie make [more] sense. And if we did get one, well I don’t think there’d be many people willing to revisit this movie any time soon!

For it’s movies like Sinister Squad that make me wonder why The Asylum can’t make a decent mockbuster. After all, some of their Syfy productions are fantastic, often belying the ridiculousness of their plots and the cheapness of their budgets. Yet with anything Hollywood related it seems the company put “quick cash in” above anything else – plot, budget, story, characters, acting. But hey, it obviously works for them and I have no doubt the returns from these mockbusters have funded a dozen better Asylum films.

As I said in the intro, you know what you’re in for with an Asylum mockbuster and this is no different. Sinister Squad is available on DVD and VOD now.

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